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Sri Lanka: Standards – American or British – Thirst for Knowledge economy

Sri Lanka was a British Colony for over 200 years before gaining independence in 1945. As such, institutions large and small followed and continue to follow British standards. But adaptation of these standards in Sri Lanka are continually been influenced by American standards, as more and more people are trained in US universities than in British universities.

As an example, I was educated at Royal College in Colombo, the most prominent and the largest school in Sri Lanka with a history of over 150 years. After completing my GCSE Advance Level examinations in 1987, I moved to UK to undertake an undergraduate degree at University of Brighton in 1988. At Royal College, I was one of the 40 students in my class. We had 14 classes in the same grade/form, i.e. 560 students undertook the same exam at the same time. As far as I know, I was the only one to come to UK to further my education straight after receiving the results (some migrated much later). However, at least 3 from the same class of 40 went to US for further education.

This trend continues to date, i.e. more and more students join American universities than British. Now, there are many affiliations of foreign universities in Sri Lanka, these being British, American and others. It has become a lucrative industry for western universities. Sri Lankans have a thirst for knowledge which comes from undertaking further studies and fighting for the few university places in Sri Lanka. It is much easier for Sri Lankans to travel (still need visas) now than it used to be.

This has created a dynamic economy with ever increasing trading relationships with foreign banks and companies. Sri Lankans who run companies abroad do not abandon their country of birth. They somehow tries to give something back. Good example (other than ebdex) is Virtusa, which has a large development centre in Sri Lanka. Virtusa is run by Kris Canekeratne, who started the company with his wife, both Sri Lankans, and now one of the biggest employers of IT staff in Sri Lanka.  

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